“I didn’t get an IV, absolutely not,” said Gonzalez, of Cuban-American descent and from Miami, laughing. “I think it’d be insulting to our Latin heritage.”
This Nationals team, on pace to win 97 games, has surged into first place in the National League East thanks to the play of Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper — who was named an all-star on Saturday — and Ian Desmond, who pulled out of his first all-star game because of a nagging injury to his side. Tied for the major league lead in victories, Gonzalez has been perhaps the team’s most consistent force.
With the Washington area going through a heat wave, players loaded up on electrolyte-filled drinks before the game and filled themselves with water at every chance they could. The day before, Strasburg needed an IV before the game to help keep him hydrated.
While uncomfortable, the heat didn’t destroy Gonzalez. He did labor slowly through the first two innings, struggling to locate his fastball and sending his pitch count high. He took his time between pitches. But, as he has been all season for the Nationals, he churned through innings.
In 17 startsthis season, only twice has Gonzalez not pitched at least five innings. Consistency has become expected from Gonzalez, for whom the Nationals sent four of their best prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the offseason.
“I don’t know what kind of run support he got over there in Oakland but he’s certainly been stingy giving up runs here and hits,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s been fun to watch.”
Gonzalez’s 12th win tied a Nationals record for most wins before the all-star break. The last Nationals pitcher to accomplish the same feat was Livan Hernandez, who went 12-3 in 2005 before the all-star break. While Hernandez needed 19 starts, Gonzalez did so in 17.
“Gio has been great,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Every fifth day, he goes out there with a lot of energy.”
On Saturday, Gonzalez worked through the Rockies lineup, allowing three hits, only two for extra bases. The only run he allowed came on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. Once he found his groove in the third, he was more efficient. He needed 102 pitches to get through six innings, striking out six batters and walking three. He used his full arsenal of pitches, relying on his change-up more than before.
“His curveball was outstanding today,” Johnson said.